January 16, 2008
Roger and Miguel

I think it's fair to say that the Astros franchise, and GM Ed Wade, have had better days than yesterday.

Disappointed baseball couldn't solve its steroids problem earlier, Drayton McLane and several Astros withheld judgment after the House Oversight Committee asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether shortstop Miguel Tejada lied to federal investigators in 2005.

Although area players Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch aren't due to testify at a House Oversight Committee hearing until next month, the hearings with former Senator George Mitchell, commissioner Bud Selig and union chief Don Fehr quickly had Houston importance when Tejada was mentioned in the opening statement by Congressman Henry Waxman.

The Astros acquired Tejada from the Baltimore Orioles on Dec. 12, a day before he and former Astros Clemens and Pettitte were among the three highest-profile players implicated in the use of performance-enhancing drugs when Mitchell released his report for baseball.

"It's disappointing that we couldn't have solved the problem a long time ago," McLane said via phone from his office in Temple. "We were not allowed to have testing by the union. That was something that they didn't want to bargain about for many years and, I feel, would have struck over it if we had tried to enforce it.

"It's just disappointing that this has occurred because of the confusion that it brings to the public about our great sport."


During congressional hearings held on March 17, 2005, Rafael Palmeiro testified and vehemently denied ever using steroids. Later that year, while playing with Tejada on the Orioles Palmeiro tested positive for using steroids, prompting the Committee to investigate whether he committed perjury at the hearings.

As you know, the whole so-called PED issue doesn't really strike a chord in me. But lying to the feds is generally not a good idea.

I don't know how hot the soup is that Tejada has landed in. I walked in on Tiffany watching the 6 PM news on Channel 11 last night, and caught some bits of a legal expert talking about how lying to Congress isn't technically perjury because of the way the perjury statutes are written (two words: Oliver North). You''ll note that Raffy Palmeiro is still walking around unindicted, for instance. But things don't look so good for Tejada right now.

On a side note, Grits points out that unless the feds actually intend to pursue charges against Tejada, we really shouldn't be hearing about any of this right now. Something to ponder when and if more names and/or more revelations come out.

As for Clemens, there's this:

Pressed to weigh in on the credibility of accusations against star pitcher Roger Clemens, independent baseball watchdog George Mitchell came down strongly on the side of Clemens accuser Brian McNamee.

"Mr. McNamee had an overwhelming incentive to tell the truth," said Mitchell, a former Senate Majority Leader.

Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner as baseball's best pitcher and a former Astros all-star, has repeatedly and heatedly denied accusations that he used any banned substance.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., asked Mitchell whether there was "too little corroboration" of McNamee's testimony.

"I carefully reviewed and considered all the information we received," Mitchell responded. He said he "tried to establish the truthfulness of the information before it was included in the report."

Mitchell said he gave Clemens an opportunity to respond "and he declined."

Mitchell pointed out that McNamee's agreement with federal prosecutors grants him immunity for truthful testimony but further sanctions for false statements. The former senator said he read the sections of his report to McNamee before they were released publicly and the witness said he was "completely comfortable" with them.

Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., followed up to make sure Mitchell believed his star witness.

"We feel that the statements provided to us were truthful," Mitchell responded.

That may move the pieces around on the public relations board, but I don't think it changes what we already knew. Mitchell talked to McNamee, not Clemens (who, let's face it, would have been a fool to talk to him even if perjury didn't apply), he believed him enough to put his accusations in the report even though there was no corroborating evidence, and now he's standing by what he wrote. What else did you expect? Whether you believe Clemens is guilty of something or not still comes down to which one you think is more credible. Mitchell's reiteration of his own report doesn't, or at least shouldn't, affect that.

Along those lines, Derek Jacques addresses the matter of McNamee's statement and its credibility:

Technically, the agreement likely does stipulate that he gives evidence against Clemens--the way these documents work, usually, is they have a copy of the witness's statement attached, and the agreement basically says, "You agree that you gave this statement of your own free will, that it's all true, and that, if we ask you to, you would testify to it in court. We will not use your statement to prosecute you for any crimes, but if you go back on your story, we can use it against you, as well as prosecute you for perjury and whatever else we can think of." The statement--which in McNamee's case would include the things he said about Clemens and Pettitte, as well as any details he might have given about his supplier, Kirk Radomski--is typically given before the agreement is put on paper. So the question isn't what the agreement says, it's whether or not the agents made it clear to McNamee that he had to put something in that statement about Clemens or he'd go to jail, thereby possibly pressuring him to lie.

Something to add to the discussion here comes from King Kaufman, who watched the proceedings on C-SPAN so I didn't have to:

I don't know who let Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., in. Ninety-one minutes into the hearing, he asked the first really good question. He cited a newspaper article about a study that found no improved performance by those players who had tested positive.

"I'm wondering," he asked Mitchell, "whether, in the course of your investigation, you felt that we really knew enough about what these substances really did. Because in terms of providing education for our kids, if in fact there is no performance [enhancement], maybe the kids would be less prone to use them if we really found out that there wasn't any quantitative difference in their performance."

Mitchell, to his credit, gave a nuanced answer. "I believe the subject is very complicated," he said, "and as often happens in life, a phrase has entered into the universal vocabulary of our society: Performance-enhancing substances. If you look at and talk to the players who use them, you find that the motives, while they ultimately involve performance, don't always do so in an immediate sense. A lot of it is recovery time, recovery from injury, recovery from strenuous workouts, the ability to work out more often."

Mitchell also talked about the possible placebo effect. But he didn't really answer the question. Whether the intention is to immediately improve performance or to do so indirectly by recovering from injury more quickly or being able to work out harder, if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. Getting the word out on that might be a very smart front to open in the War on Drugs.

It's an article of faith that steroids and things like HGH have a direct, measurable, positive impact on a player's performance. Hell, the phrase "performance-enhancing drugs" spells it out for you right there. But medical research is far less clear on the point, and it may be that the main benefit is quicker recuperation time for injured players, something I daresay the public might consider a good thing. Maybe the best way to go here, instead of doing the War On Drugs writ small, is to really pursue the research, and if it turns out that the risks far outweigh the benefits (if there even are any), to push education of that at every level of competitive sports. Derek Jacques has similar thoughts.

I know, I know, that's crazy talk. Off with their heads! It's much easier, and so much more fun, that way.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 16, 2008 to Baseball
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